Commentary & Analysis
The Interview: Skip Henk, President of Xplor International
Conducted by Noel Ward,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: October 21, 2005
Conducted by Noel Ward, Executive Editor, On Demand Journal October 21, 2005 -- It was just one year ago that Skip Henk, president of Xplor International, announced that Xplor would co-locate its annual Global Conference and Exhibition with Graphics of the Americas, coming up February 1-5, 2006 in Miami Beach, Florida. Since that announcement there have been advocates who say it's a great move, skeptics who question the alignment with a traditional trade show, and naysayers who think it's Xplor's last gasp. We won't really know for sure until February, but the indications are healthy. We are opening four new chapters in the U.S. as well as two International Chapters in South America. Organizations like Xplor require passionate leaders, and Henk is passion-squared. He has traveled the planet to build alliances, start new chapters in the organization, and develop new forums for knowledge exchange. These efforts have focused on re-inventing Xplor, drawing on its strengths as an educational and networking association. The annual conference is a big part of this, and he has kept the Xplor team focused on its strength—education, while letting GOA take the lead on building a solid show floor. He told me last year that he wanted to re-invent not just Xplor, but to make it the model for what print trade shows can really be: more than equipment and a few seminars, but a true source for education, networking and seeing and touching the latest equipment. One thing is clear: There'll be a lot going on at the Miami Beach Convention Center come February. ODJ tracked Skip down and got him to sit still for an interview so we could find out the status of Xplor one year from his announcement and about 100 days from the new Xplor conference. ODJ: There has been a lot of “buzz” going on about Xplor since we last spoke. Can you give us an update on Xplor as an organization? SH: Xplor as an organization has gone “back to basics,” focusing on our core competency of education, networking and information, a decision validated by the success of our 2005 programming. Our two day Variable Data Conference held in conjunction with the 2005 Graphics of the Americas exceeded projections by 42 percent. Our new Vision 2005 Leadership and Professional Development program slated for November 11-13th in Orlando already has surpassed projected registrations by 8 percent, with three weeks still left to go. We are going for “three in a row” in Miami Beach. Membership has stabilized and we are opening four new chapters in the U.S. as well as two International Chapters in South America. We have also released six new products that provide our members and the industry access to a broad range of information, career opportunities and education. ODJ: You recently announced that you will be significantly expanding your educational curriculum in Miami Beach adding six new conferences. Why the radical change in venue? SH: The industry been talking about convergence for many years-- and it is happening. Transactional printers are using data, color, 1:1 marketing and CRM to produce more effective documents in better communicating with their customers. Traditional printers are looking to add variable data to add value to their applications and are quickly adapting to digital color. This affords us a unique opportunity to expand programming to support changing educational requirements and converging markets. Ten organizations, associations and third parties are involved in the curriculum, support and promotion of this educational event, ODJ: So what can conference attendees expect in Miami Beach? SH: A “one-of-kind event”. The exciting anomaly about the 2006 Global Document Conference is that ten organizations, associations and third parties are involved in the curriculum, support and promotion of this educational event, making it the strongest curriculum I have ever seen targeted to both management and technical audiences. Our four-day Xplor Document Conference will have over 130 sessions and will feature a (3) day Prepress conference within it as well as an All-Star human resource track headed by an executive—still to be determioned--from Pitney Bowes. Then we have a four-day PDF for Print Production Forums and Tutorials that's promoted by PlanetPDF. In addition, there's a four day XML for Print Production program, two-day Spanish variable data conference in conjunction with Artes Graficas, three-day InDesign Conference featuring the Adobe Power Tour, Photoshop conducted by NAPP and a CIP4 User’s Group meeting. With all this, we feel it's important to cast an wider net so lots of people can take advantage of this information. So in addition to PAF and Xplor members we are further reaching out by extending conference discounts to: ECI, IPA, ISUG, NAPL, PIA and TAWPI. It will be a “one-of-a-kind as well as “first-of-a-kind” event. It will be a “one-of-a-kind as well as “first-of-a-kind” event. With the support and promotion of the event by our “ten partners” are expectations of success are extremely high. ODJ: Xplor has, with a couple of exceptions--been located in the Sun Belt. And it's always been in the Fall. Now that members--and vendors--have had time to think about it, what has their reaction been to the change in timing and venue? SH: In the last sixteen months I have attended over 30 chapter and regional meetings in seven countries talking about the changes within the organization and the concept of radically changing the look, feel and content of the Global conference. Although I did not know exactly what the curriculum was going to look like until about three months ago I did know that we were going to hold multiple conferences and crossing lines. The reaction and support has been great. I've also met with dozens of vendors who are generally very positive and optimistic. Many have expanded their exhibit space in Miami. All the vendors I have spoken to are pleased with the concept of focusing on education and expanding the content. All the vendors I have spoken to are pleased with the concept of focusing on education and expanding the content. In addition, vendors are looking for an ROI on show dollars. The Graphics of the Americas attracts over 23,000 attendees, and has a strong international audience. When you add in the traditional Xplor Fortune 1000 attendees, it goes a long way in providing the return they need. ODJ: Vendors speak with their check books--and booth sign-ups. Chris Price Vice President at PAF/GOA tells me Xplor is bringing in new companies and that some of the bigger vendors are increasing their footprint at the show. What are you seeing so far? SH: When I met with Chris last week he reported booth sales from a GOA perspective are tracking well ahead of last year. Add to that, most of the traditional Xplor members have booth space in Miami and we expect more to sign up now that Print ’05 is over. We're also seeing activity amongst suppliers of PDF and XML solutions. ODJ: Any closing thoughts SH: It has been a very busy year for the Xplor organization and I look forward to the future. In 2006 expect more changes as we expand into other areas of education and information. I invite everyone to the Global Document Exchange and the Graphics of the Americas. Great conference, great exhibit and what's not to like about Miami Beach in February?